For a few weeks in August, both were considered among the best high school football teams in the state. Crespi was ranked No. 2 in one poll and Mater Dei wasn’t far behind at No. 12.
Crespi and Mater Dei, which meet at 7:30 tonight in a nonleague game at Santa Ana Stadium, were expected to field strong offenses. But defensive shortcomings have been largely responsible for their plunge from those lofty preseason perches.
Crespi (4-3) has allowed 145 points and yielded an average of 287 yards a game. The Celts have surrendered 20 or more points four times and have suffered losses to highly regarded Servite and Muir.
Mater Dei (3-4) has held only St. Bernard to less than 10 points and has allowed 21 or more points four times. Mater Dei has lost to Fountain Valley (22-17), Oceanside (38-36), Edison (21-9) and Bishop Amat (28-14). Fountain Valley and Edison are ranked in the Top 10 by The Times in Orange County.
“I think they may have played a schedule that was even tougher than ours,” Crespi Coach Bill Redell said. “I’d have to say this one’s too close to call. Maybe a touchdown either way.
“I think both teams are better than their records indicate.”
Mater Dei quarterback Danny O’Neil, a first-year starter, has completed 80 of 143 passes (55.9%) for 1,068 yards and 14 touchdowns and has thrown 7 interceptions.
Wide receiver Tony Pena has an Orange County-high 48 receptions for 784 yards and 7 touchdowns. Running back Kealii Clifford has gained a team-high 496 yards in 92 carries and has scored 7 touchdowns.
Led by the resurgence of All-American tailback Russell White, Crespi has rebounded from a 2-3 start with decisive victories over Del Rey League opponents the past 2 weeks. White, who has rushed for 829 yards and 14 touchdowns, has scored 8 touchdowns in his past 2 starts.
Crespi has outscored opponents, 84-15, in its past 2 games, during which White broke the state career scoring and yardage records.
Crespi senior fullback Quinn Fauria leads the team in receptions with 34 for 407 yards (12 average). White has 19 receptions for 249 yards (13 average) and 3 touchdowns.